In a recent example, CMEology modeled the cost savings associated with an activity for cardiothoracic surgeons that promoted prevention of bleeding-related complications and reoperation for bleeding. Following a live, certified CME symposiumheld in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons in January 2012, the group analyzed the outcomes using immediate post-activity commitment to change, survey data, and follow-up data collected one year after the activity.

They modeled the potential costs avoided when only three in 10 participants returned to practice and prevented bleeding complications in 1.5 percent to 2 percent of their annual surgeries. The researchers were surprised to find that even with a modest impact on behavior, savings estimates ranged from $1.5 million to $2.7 million. The following year, the faculty asked to present the results to an audience at a similar symposium. After the activity, 84 percent of participants said the economic data would be pivotal in their decision to incorporate what they learned into their practice.

In this age of constrained resources, it is likely that economic impact data will have an impact on learners as well as payers. The data from the research was presented at the 2013 meeting of the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research. The poster is available for download.

A Versatile and Practical Approach

While the culmination of extensive research, the OIA model is designed to be practical and applied, requiring only off-the-shelf software. The approach can be used for any therapeutic area or educational design for which cost data are available. In addition to outcomes, the model can help decision makers by evaluating the economic impact of different activities before they are initiated. The team hopes these developments will foster greater discussion of economics in CME, as costs are a universally understood language that complement educational outcomes to effectively communicate the value of CME.

Rob Lowney is principal/managing director of CMEology, a West Hartford, Conn.–based medical education company that includes outcomes research in its offerings.